New tools and techniques have made it possible to accumulate more data than ever before. While obtaining relevant data is growing, our methods of communicating the data have changed little over the past few decades.
In an increasingly visual scientific world, your pictures and words are more important than ever. In the past, crafting a good picture of data was the exception. It\u2019s now the rule.
The average PowerPoint presentation contains elements that have no relevance to the data: busy backgrounds, cute clipart, and animated effects. This is largely because PowerPoint templates are about PowerPoint, not your data. PowerPoint\u2019s
Realistic models of causation cannot be conveyed in a bullet list. The speaker may properly explain it, but the effort will be undermined by projected information that fights for the audience\u2019s attention. A narrative is required. This narrative is verbally communicated. Reserve your projected materialschief ly for displaying data graphics or straightforward concepts.
Data graphics should draw the viewer's attention to the sense and substance of the data, not to something else. The data graphical form should present the quantitative contents. Statistical graphics are instruments to help people reason about quantitative information.
Consider these two methods when crafting your presentation. Both have their uses, depending upon the content of your talk.
If you are crafting a traditional presentation, then keep all your handouts and reference materials until the end of the talk. This ensures that people are not reading your handout when they should be listening to your story. Also, never use slide-printouts as a handout because they won\u2019t work without you. If your graphics convey a basic overview of data, then this approach is suitable.
If you are crafting a presentation that contains a high volume of data, then provide a data-dump to your audience, give them some time to read it, and then explore it using a minimal number of slides. If your graphics contain dense, multivariate data, then this approach is suitable.
Regardless of the method you employ, your presentation is about your ideas and your story: not slides and pictures (which are secondary and supportive).
Don\u2019t parrot the slide\u2019s contents. Your audience will
divide their attention between the screen and you; they
will do neither well.
How efficient the information throughput in a data-rich meeting? How can you increase it? Edward Tufte\u2019s approach is to (1) give participants a high-resolution data-dump and then (2) talk about the data.
The goal of this approach is to explore data that is not stacked in time, as in a traditional presentation. Rather than stepping sequentially through slides, present the data up front and then discuss it. This results in a technical, informal tone and meetings that are up to 30% shorter.
A supergraphic is an 11x17 data-dump that is handed out prior to your presentation. It is clean, colorful, and packed with data. It is designed to encourage exploration and questions.
The development of removable-type publishing acciden- tally divorced words and images. We gained the mass-production of knowledge books, but lost the word-image connection. Modern tools can now reconnect those two methods if we are willing.
This bond between verbal and nonverbal evidence has sometimes come undone in the process of publishing, as the assorted technologies of reproduction and presenta- tion have segregated information by the accident of its mode of production. What has happened during 1,200 years of presenting text and images on paper and computer screens \u2013 and what can be done about it?
Get the best possible content however you need to. Don't reinvent anything that can be acquired and modified.
If possible, practice in front of a camera so you can examine any behavioral distractions. Also, listen to a recording of your presentation to learn what verbal tics you might express.
Finish your presentation early. You have more time for questions and the positive impression you leave on your audience will make them happy.
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